great conversations: collaboration

ed. note: After taking a sanity break from my Web 2.0 evangelism (a short one), I’m back and ready to continue trying to explain why and how Web 2.0-style thinking, tools, and technology ought to be applied now (not at some future date) to make our collective burden lighter while changing the way we work. Along the way, I was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of one Scott Gavin from the UK with whom I discussed this very topic … take a read and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Take for instance information gathering and collaboration; the way we discover things about the world, let others know about it, and collaborate about how to use that information. Of course we all do this everyday, and examples abound, from a simple gesture or nod that tells your friends what you’ve seen (“Look at this!) to the exchange of vital research by scientists for whom collaboration gives them an edge in beating the clock (cancer, AIDS, etc.). And nowadays, better information capture and collaboration means doing it better on the Internet.

Scenario
Let’s say you and a colleague are cruising the ‘net and find something that you think would be of interest not only to each another but to other people in your firm, your group, your case, etc. What should you do with that information? How should you share it with everyone and still keep working? In other words, these are the questions that come to mind

  • What tool should we use as we’re surfing to capture and display information?
  • How best should we display the information? Blog? Wiki? Twitter? Dandelife?

For examples of how we might choose to display such information see my dandelife page, my twitter page, my del.icio.us page, my trailfire page, and my diigo page. [note: dandelife, which I consider to be the coolest of all, is an application of the SIMILE software protocol pioneered at MIT — if you can figure out how to use that protocol, it is available as freeware — I’m just not a programmer so I haven’t gotten around to trying].

Information Sharing
The usual suspects include the long list of FireFox extensions, as well as bookmarklets by diigo.com, del.icio.us, trailfire, bluedot, pocket, spurl, furl, and many others. Personally I use diigo, delicious, and trailfire, but for different purposes.

I use diigo.com to capture information and send it on to specific people. That same application will automatically add a bookmark to my list, and if I choose it can send the snippet or page to a blog (it even has a built-in editor for posts, and it’s not half bad).

I use del.icio.us to simply capture items and easily put them into my own link list as well as that of my friends (who are also del.icio.us users). This is my all-purpose, can’t miss, anyone can use it, solution.

I use TrailFire.com because in many ways it is the most engaging and maybe sophisticated form of bookmarking, but I have to admit that I’ve never tried using it to communicate or share on a serious basis. But that’s not because it’s not a cool or useful system, it’s more the case that there are only so many bookmarking applications one needs, and I am already marginally satisfied with the first 2 so this one just seems like its for my own amusement. But it could be an interesting alternative.

Information Display
No matter how easy an application makes it to save bookmarks and comments, if it doesn’t simultaneously and automatically create an attractive presentation of that information and allow you to make your own enhancements then it has doubled your work and is cumbersome. For instance, del.icio.us has obvious limits in this department. On the other hand, diigo let’s you share link lists with others (like del.icio.us) but also plays nice with blogging platforms like wordpress. TrailFire is easy to use to bookmark, and does create an interesting presentation with your bookmarks, but again I’ve never tried using it to interface with say a blog or wiki or what have you so it may be limited as well. While I am not advocating diigo I have yet to find another tool that is as flexible in terms of letting you simultaneously build link lists, send items to an unlimited number of specific people, create “sticky notes” that can be seen by the public or just by members of your team, then create posts in a full featured WYSIWYG editor and send them to any or all of your blogs simultaneously (pretty cool feature set).

Platform Choice (Blog, Wiki, Combination, Other)
The ultimate question when it comes to information display is whether to go blog, wiki, some combination, or a hybrid direction such as a trailfire trail, a twitter trail, or a dandelife blog/trail/timeline. Ultimately the most sophisticated tool would be a solid wiki with a built-in blog and loads of features. Sticking with the always-popular free options I like wetpaint.com but pbwiki.com is also good. Probably the best wiki out there is from socialtext.com (enterprise wiki don’t you know) but that costs, as does a new blog/wiki vendor that i’ve found called squarespace. This last vendor was super easy to use to create a blog, and I’m sure that their wiki’s and such are just as easy to use.

One response to “great conversations: collaboration

  1. Going from knowledge to usage seems to be the biggest challenge this sector faces on a daily basis.

    1) Lack of knowledge – brings forth it’s not professional enough – don’t show a weakness
    2) Change – unless mandated by an external power volunteer acceptance of anything does not happen.
    [e-filing ring a bell][using word attachments vs
    .pdf][creating a free blog]

    Facilitator is a better descriptive, with the added notion cost is not attached. Should we take our bank boxes of paper and covert them too digital files, yes.
    Should we consider a better back-up system than tape, maybe online storage, yes. But since this involves spending $$$ vs collecting billable hours it drops down the list of priorities.

    Technology is a double edged sword, it has the ability to help with productivity but keep in mind you just enter onto the ultimate trend mill – Change.

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